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Cover Story: More than Scribbles

Graffiti artists come in from the street at ArtWorks

By Laura James · August 14th, 2007 · Cover Story
Graham Lienhart

It's hard to believe that Scribble Jam started in a parking lot. People come from all over the country to check out the DJ battles at Annie's and revel at the club parties downtown.

At the same time, we know ArtWorks as a gallery not on the cutting edge of Hip Hop but one that tends toward public art projects and aesthetic employment. Sometimes the two fit perfectly together -- the new mural on the side of a law firm on Central Parkway, for example, causes drivers to slow to a crawl.

The mural is part of MuralWorks, an ArtWorks program that gives teens the opportunity to make art and some money.

So how do ArtWorks and Scribble Jam come together? Easy: They both do what they know best.

ArtWorks has pulled together a show of top local graffiti artists that opens Thursday. Artists will come in to the gallery to create work on the walls, a transient thing, a lot like Tibetan monks spending hours to make intricate sand Mandela only to blow them away as soon as they're finished.

The artists who are coming to ArtWorks this year know that a lot of their stuff won't last very long. The walls will be stripped and painted white again in a month or so. But that movement -- that urgency -- tells a lot about graffiti art and artists in itself.

What the exhibition says about ArtWorks is different. There will be pieces for sale at the show, things pinned into frames and objectified. Things to purchase and take home. Commodity.

But it's not really a "money matters to the gallery" thing. It's the push for survival. It's not letting all this talent get away from us.

Last August, all eyes were on Annie's. We saw some excellent graffiti pop up overnight on the walls, trailers and run-down flea markets on Kellogg Avenue near Lunken Airport. I'm sure that by the time Scribble Jam 2007 comes to an end, the block will look pretty different again.

New artists will replace the old ones. The artists from last year will change their own work.

If you presuppose anything about gallery art versus street art -- or even if you don't -- make sure to keep one eye on ArtWorks in the next few weeks. You'll be compelled to slow down to take in all in.

SCRIBBLE JAM GRAFFITI SHOW opens Thursday with a reception at 6-9 p.m. at ArtWorks, 811 Race St., Downtown. The exhibition runs through Sept. 7.



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